With The Weinstein Company's "The Butler" hitting theaters nationwide this weekend and Millennium Film's "Lovelace" in limited release, we thought it was a good time to look back at some of the genre's messier moments, including two Oliver Stone movies, "Miss Potter," and of course, John Wayne as Genghis Khan in "The Conqueror."
7. 'J. Edgar' (2011)
Oh, Mr. Hoover. Where to start. Granted, director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black had the difficult task of condensing 37 years of the notorious FBI Chief's political reign into a 2-hour and 17 minute movie but nothing is worse than a biopic that skims over the major events in someone's life. Unfortunately, some of their decisions on what to cover and what not to left a lot to be desired. Hoover was a key figure in the McCarthy Hearings, one of the darkest periods in Congressional history, and it barely warrants five minutes in the film. Then there is the allegation Hoover blackmailed every president except Nixon, Johnson and Eisenhower to stay in office. That's just one example of how "J. Edgar" is so speculative that it seems like fan fiction at times. Leonardo DiCaprio does his best to make it all seem to make sense, but it doesn't help when co-star Naomi Watts has a pointlessly written role as Hoover's secretary (a key historical figure in her own right) and Armie Hammer is out of his depth as Hoover's longtime no. 2 (and rumored lover) Clyde Tolsen. Frankly, these are all acclaimed creative people whose talents would have been better served elsewhere.
4. 'Alexander' (2004)
You knew it was gonna be bad when they couldn't dye Colin Farrell's hair blonde correctly. Oliver Stone's biopic about the legendary King of Macedonia was such a mess he's released three more re-edited versions since its debuted in 2004. The actors all have different accents that make no sense historically (Angelina Jolie sounds like Countess Dracula), historians argue that its storyline is wildly inaccurate, it features an insanely silly love scene between Farrell and Rosario Dawson that seems like it's out of another movie, the battle scenes look like they were ripped off from "Lord of the Rings" (which had wrapped up a year earlier) and it features one of the most pointless pair of bookend scenes (featuring Anthony Hopkins) ever. The one thing good you can say about it is that its so bad no one even wants to remember it for camp value (and that's really saying something when you just see how bad Farrell's hair is).
3. 'Miss Potter' (2006)
"The life of Beatrix Potter was the most enchanting tale of all," claimed the tagline for this toxically twee biopic of the legendary English children's author. Those who somehow experienced a childhood without Peter Rabbit or Jemima Puddle-Duck could be forgiven for wondering just how enchantment-free her books were. Potter led an extraordinary life -- one that saw her overcome Victorian-era chauvinism to become not just a literary phenomenon, but a dedicated naturalist and conservationist -- but you wouldn't know it it from Chris Noonan's patronizingly reductive film, which seems to think her greatest achievement was escaping sad spinsterdom and securing a marriage proposal from dishy Ewan McGregor. She was Bridget Jones all along, you see, just in frillier dresses. Not content with sullying her memory simply at script level, the film seals the deal by casting an absurdly mannered Renee Zellweger in the lead: contorting her face into would-be cutesy grimaces at every turn, the Oscar winner seems to be playing Potter as one of her own illustrated critters. A Golden Globe nomination for this career-worst performance should have been at least as fantastical a notion as talking squirrels; sadly, it's a mortifying reality.
2. 'Amelia' (2009)
Overly earnest yet dramatically inert, "Amelia" features perfunctory performances which were clearly aiming for Oscar glory, but came up woefully short. As the ill-fated pioneering aviator, recent double-Oscar winner Hilary Swank seems content to simply look the part without going beneath the surface. Likewise, Mira Nair's glossy film reduces the inherent suspense and drama of Earhart's tragic, mysterious final hours to ham-fisted melodrama rendered in soapy close-up shots full of tearful performances by supporting players Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor. Viewers craving illumination and excitement are better off sticking to Earhart's Wikipedia entry.
1. 'Patch Adams' (1998)
Robin Williams can be truly funny and can also excel in dramatic roles. Playing the title character in "Patch Adams," he is neither funny nor terribly dramatic. Patch Adams, med student, wants patients to be treated like people and is so dead certain that the world is against him (it's mostly just one ridiculous caricature of an evil dean) that he can't stop for two seconds and realize that nearly everyone agrees with him, they just want him to treat them decently. One of Patch's most memorable lines is "You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you'll win, no matter what the outcome." Physician heal thyself. If a character in the film isn't a patient, Patch bullies them. He pranks them. He repeatedly goes over the top with unfunny jokes when, if he would just sit down and shut up, not only could he treat patients as he saw fit, he could easily bring everyone around to his way of thinking. The obstacles thrown in his way are presented in ludicrous fashion and easily swatted by our "hero" over and over again. Not a drama, not a comedy, and with an unlikable lead character whom the movie desperately wants us to root for (but gives us absolutely no reason to), "Patch Adams" is a complete misfire.
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